The Cathedral of Saint Lazare: West Portal

The Cathedral of Saint Lazare: West Portal (SZ)

Last Judgement scene in the West Portal. Credits: Emily Kren and Daniel Marx on the Web Gallery of Art.

The Cathedral of Saint Lazare is a Romanesque church that holds the bones of St. Lazarus. This cathedral has a stone portal on the west side with a tympanum depicting the Last Judgement. The round, semi-circular tympanum (on the west portal) is 640 cm wide, supported by a 76.5 cm tall lintel, which is held up by a trumeau that is currently not the original sculpture, but a modern reconstruction (Grivot 26). It was previously believed that the sculptor of the original work was Gislebertus, but now scholars believe he may have been the director or patron of the art (Marilyn 211).

The tympanum is a relief sculpture with elongated figures. Most of the figures are sculpted in high relief or in the round, as the tympanum is made from 29 pieces of stone, with an average projection of 25 cm (Grivot 25). There is little concern with the proportions of the body, especially with the central figure, which we know to be the most important figure due to its size and central location. Lines carved into the stone show repeating folds of drapery and great attention to detail. By elongating the figures, the sculptor creates the illusion of less relief, making the work appear more two-dimensional. Some figures’ bodies (specifically those in the right of the lintel) have more acute angles at their joints, making them look visually uncomfortable (Zucker). Other figures (like those in the left of the lintel) have more obtuse angles, making them appear to be in a more comfortable position.

Stokstad, Marilyn. Medieval Art. Westview Press, 2004.

Grivot, Denis, and George Zarnecki. Gislebertus, Sculptor of Autun. Trianon Press, 1961

Zucker, Dr. Steven and Dr. Beth Harris. “Last Judgement, Tympanum, Cathedral of St. Lazare, Autun (France).” Smarthistory, 5 Dec. 2015,

Image Credit: Kren, Emily and Daniel Marx. Web Gallery of Art. 

The Cathedral of Saint Lazare: West Portal